Sri Lanka violence leaves 30 dead: army

COLOMBO, Nov 24, 2006 (AFP) – Renewed fighting in Sri Lanka’s embattled northern and eastern regions has left at least 30 people dead, according to defence ministry figures Friday.

The bitter ethnic conflict has claimed at least 60,000 lives since it began in 1972.

Security forces killed 19 Tamil Tiger rebels in two clashes Thursday in the eastern district of Batticaloa where four policemen also died, the ministry said.

It said the guerrillas had also shot dead two civilians in the east on the same day and five Tiger guerrillas were shot dead in a confrontation in the northern Vavuniya district.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they lost only one combatants in the island’s east Thursday and accused the military of killing a student and wounding five others.

No independent verification of casualty claims was possible amid ongoing clashes between the two sides.

The LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have escalated fighting in the past year in tit-for-tat battles that have claimed over 3,400 lives despite a 2002 ceasefire agreement.